Gay Rights Legislative Wrongs: Representation of Gays and Lesbians

42 Pages Posted: 19 Jul 2010 Last revised: 9 Sep 2010

See all articles by Charles Anthony Smith

Charles Anthony Smith

University of California, Irvine

Benjamin G. Bishin

University of California, Riverside (UCR) - Department of Political Science

Date Written: 2010

Abstract

Over the past half-century, students of democratic representation have investigated the extent to which elected officials act as their constituents prefer. Less attention has been paid to the fact that in addition to popular sovereignty, however, modern republican democracy is characterized by the values of liberty and equality. Democratic theorists suggest that these latter values should prevail in cases of conflict when the issue in question speaks to citizens’ fundamental rights, as is the case with gay marriage. We examine this question of representation and responsiveness with respect to gay marriage, an issue of importance to the gay community — a small and intense group that struggles to achieve policy success. We find that neither majoritarian nor capture-based theories of representation fully account for the lack of elected official responsiveness to this particular constituent interest group. Instead, our evidence supports the theory of subconstituency politics. Consequently, we find little reason for optimism that legislation supporting gay marriage is likely to pass both because gay marriage is opposed by a competing subconstituency, Evangelical Christians, who are intense and larger in number and because the systemic design inhibits the ability of minority groups to succeed legislatively in the face of comparable minority opposition.

Keywords: representation, LGBT, subconstituency

Suggested Citation

Smith, Charles Anthony and Bishin, Benjamin G., Gay Rights Legislative Wrongs: Representation of Gays and Lesbians (2010). APSA 2010 Annual Meeting Paper. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1643880

Charles Anthony Smith (Contact Author)

University of California, Irvine ( email )

Campus Drive
Irvine, CA 62697-3125
United States

Benjamin G. Bishin

University of California, Riverside (UCR) - Department of Political Science ( email )

Riverside, CA 92521
United States

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